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Have Evangelicals Lost Faith in Trump?

In early 2016, the main Republican nominee delivered a shocking speech at a small Christian college in Sioux Center, Iowa. He was formerly recognized as a television star and pro-business capitalist known for his heinous acts of corruption and gambling. Donald Trump, who had not yet been elected as the 45th president of the United States, furiously said: “I will tell you, Christianity is under tremendous siege, whether we want to talk about it or we don’t want to talk about it.” During this period, Trump complained via populist slogans about why Christians, as the majority of society, do not hold political leadership of the country, and by ranting such slogans, he amused the religious population.

On election day, the slogans paid off, and according to some statistics, nearly 81 percent of evangelical white Christian voters helped Trump get elected as the 45th president of the US. In return, he marked the beginning of white Christian America. As a matter of fact, they wanted a leader who would give them a voice, and it didn’t matter to them if he himself ever attended church or not. Donald Trump initially formed his government with evangelicals consisting of Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

Foremost, Trump has pursued policies that have attracted the attention of the conservative community. Most evangelical Christians oppose divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion. They want to make sure that America remains as a Christian nation, which is why evangelicals oppose open immigration policies, especially for Muslims and people of color. They also demand a conservative Supreme Court to protect these ideals. During this time, Trump has elected conservative judges close to the evangelicals, including Judge Neil Gorsuch and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to serve in the Supreme Court of the United States. And now, with the death of another judge of the Supreme Court, it is possible for Trump to choose a third conservative judge.

Far from conservative domestic politics, Trump has another card in his pocket that will win back the evangelical vote that is the Israeli regime. Trump’s biggest move toward Israel, in line with the evangelicals, was the relocation of the US embassy to Beit ul-Muqaddas during his tenure. Evangelicals believe that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land – as a result the Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) that forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 when Tel Aviv proclaimed existence, and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – is in accordance with Biblical prophecy. They believe that the second advent of Christ will happen after the Jews have gathered in Israel (Occupied Palestine).

More than 76 percent of evangelicals are white and have a significant voter turnout, but the vote of the Christians in America is not easily predictable, due to their differences in lifestyle depending on which part of America they live in. For example, far from the East Coast or liberal and industrialized California, Central America exists which has a rural texture. However, the question for many is that in the 2020 presidential elections, whether Trump – who rarely goes to church- is once again going to be their preferred candidate or not. So far, Trump’s political strategy to win the election seems to be rooted in creating controversy and believes that creating a rift in society will win him more votes. He has tried to promote himself as an advocate of law and order amid anti-racist protests and police violence. Calling the protesters rioters, he has repeatedly warned that Democrats have dismantled the police and have declined traditional values.

Once again, Trump addressed the evangelicals at the Republican presidential nomination on August 28. In this election we will determine whether we are defending the American way of life, or whether we will allow a radical movement to destroy it completely, Trump emphasized. Evangelicals believe that the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, anti-war protests, and the legalization of homosexuality have undermined religious values. Using faith as a tool and shaking hands with powerful evangelicals in exchange for votes is not a new tactic. In 1979, there was an organization to mobilize Christian rights for the Republican Party. Former President and Hollywood star Ronald Reagan also resorted to Christian votes in the 1980s. But Reagan lived a much more private life compared to Trump, surrounded by less controversies. Trump’s tweets are vulgar and insulting even to some of his own fans. On the other hand, the media have exposed facts about Trump’s personal lawyers, paying off those who intend to expose Trump’s past bilateral unruly personal life, in order to silence them. Such an issue is important to evangelicals.

Last month, polls showed that Trump’s campaign vote was falling. One reason for this is the tendency of some evangelicals towards Joe Biden. He is the only Catholic presidential candidate after John F. Kennedy to win the candidacy of a major party. But now Biden, although being Catholic, has changed his stance on abortion and is now in favor of the pro-choice movement regarding the issue of abortion. However, Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris, has called for the repeal of amendments that would block the federal budget for abortion services, so that abortion could be practiced if the continuation of the pregnancy would endanger a woman’s life, or if the child is the result of a rape matter.

Trump supports prominent Christian figures and ministers such as Jerry Falwell Jr., whose father founded the Moral Majority NGO in 1979, Eric Metaxas, and Franklin Graham. Falwell went so far as to call Trump a ‘street fighter’ for Christians. “Conservatives and Christians should stop electing “nice guys”. They might make great Christian leaders but the US needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government b/c the liberal fascists Dems are playing for keeps & many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!” Falwell wrote on Twitter.

In August, Falwell Jr. resigned from Liberty University – a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by his father – following a series of personal scandals, which he denied. Falwell Jr. has a close friendship with Trump, but it’s unclear whether the scandal will end at the expense of Trump’s election campaign. In recent months, there have been small but significant voices speak out in the evangelical community against Trump. Some people including evangelical leaders have quietly turned their backs to Trump, and accused him of being the man who shamelessly turned their religion into an election tool.

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